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Live Nation Antitrust Lawsuit: Justice Department Files Lawsuit

Live Nation Antitrust Lawsuit: Justice Department Files Lawsuit

The Justice Department has sued Live Nation for antitrust violations tied to Ticketmaster‘s dominance over concert promotion and ticket sales.

The department joined multiple states and the District of Columbia to file in New York district court on Thursday a lawsuit accusing Live Nation of leveraging its unrivaled positions as the nation’s largest concert promoter, ticket seller and venue owner to undermine competition. It challenges the company’s control over ticketing for live events.

The lawsuit looks to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster after competition enforcers passed on trying to block their 2010 merger. The government hopes to reduce reduce ticket prices and fees by separating the two companies. It could drastically slash the company’s sprawling footprint across all avenues of the live events industry.

In a statement, Live Nation said the lawsuit “won’t solve the issues fans care about relating to ticket prices, service fees, and access to in-demand shows.” It added, “Calling Ticketmaster a monopoly may be a PR win for the DOJ in the short term, but it will lose in court because it ignores the basic economics of live entertainment, such as the fact that the bulk of service fees go to venues, and that competition has steadily eroded Ticketmaster’s market share and profit margin.”

Live Nation president Joe Berchtold, in a May earnings call, said that a breakup of Live Nation and Ticketmaster isn’t a “legally permissible remedy.” It reported first quarter revenue of $3.8 billion, up 21 percent year over year, propelled by strong demand for its ticketing and promotion services.

The long-awaited lawsuit caps years of regulatory scrutiny of Live Nation’s reach in ticket sales, concert promotion and venue operations. It’s not the company’s first run-in with competition enforcers. The Justice Department found in 2019 that the company had been violating the terms of a settlement to greenlight its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster by strongarming venues to accept Ticketmaster’s services as a condition for hosting Live Nation performers and retaliating against those that refused.

Since 2022, the Justice Department under Joe Biden’s administration has been pursuing a probe into the company investigating allegations that it continues to violate its prior deal. Scrutiny intensified following Ticketmaster’s failure to service massive demand for Taylor Swift concert tickets. In a Senate hearing over the ticket debacle, some lawmakers called Live Nation a “monopoly” that should be broken up. Berchtold blamed its bungling of Swift’s ticket sales on bots and cyber attacks.

In a statement, DC Attorney Genearl Brian Schwalb said Live Nation has “grown to dominate nearly every corner of the live entertainment ecosystem, developing a stranglehold on the industry that has eliminated any meaningful competition.” He added, “Almost every sizable concert venue in the District is locked into a Ticketmaster deal, resulting in District concertgoers paying Ticketmaster’s exorbitant fees to enjoy shows.”

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Under an amendment to the 2010 deal that allows a monitor to investigate further breaches of the consent decree until 2025, the company was barred from tying services and is subject to a $1 million fine for violations.

In the years leading up to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, Live Nation was sued by consumers across several states in purported class actions accusing the company of coercing venues into boycotting competing ticketing platforms. One of the complaints argued that the 2010 merger with Ticketmaster allowed it to overcharge users. It’s also been named in investor lawsuits for allegedly failing to disclose the scope of its legal vulnerability for abusing its power in the live music industry.

More to come.

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